Sunday, April 6, 2008


Surviving a Riot: Lessons Learned

My son phoned Sunday morning to let me know he was ok. He asked if I had seen the news about the riot. We had not seen any mention of it on the Detroit stations, but that isn’t surprising. If it had been on the news these would have been the pertinent facts.

Police use tear gas to disperse crowd at large party near Michigan St campus
The Associated Press
Published: April 6, 2008

EAST LANSING, Michigan: Police used tear gas early Sunday to disperse a crowd at a large party near the campus of Michigan State University after fights broke out and officers were pelted with bottles and cans.

Police said in a statement that 3,000 to 4,000 people had gathered for the Cedar Fest party late Saturday. They said 52 people were arrested and 48 others were ticketed for various offenses.
Nearly every officer at the scene reported being struck by a flying object, Police Chief Tom Wibert said at a news conference Sunday. Four small fires were reported and windows were smashed on two police vehicles.

"I don't see how we could have dispersed the crowd without tear gas," Wibert said. He said the gas was used as a last resort and officers showed restraint throughout the night.
Wibert said the injuries to some officers and partygoers were mostly cuts and bruises.
Authorities said the crowd became increasingly unruly after 1 a.m., and about 80 officers from various jurisdictions worked to contain the crowd.

Wibert said police initially used only loud, smoking munitions rather than tear gas to try to get the crowd to leave, but only about half of the people dispersed. Tear gas was fired at about 2 a.m.

Police said many of the troublemakers were not Michigan State students. Of the 52 people arrested, 28 had been identified as university students. They could face charges ranging from disorderly conduct to inciting a riot. More charges could be coming after police review videotape.
The event was held at Cedar Village, a student housing complex bordering the northeast side of campus.

The city and Michigan State University had warned people on Friday to stay away from the event, which was an attempt to revive an East Lansing party tradition that had been ended because of past problems.

My son’s girl friend lives near the area the Fest was taking place. They were watching the party and listening to the sounds as they talked. When things started going south my son kicked into survival mode. My son has had his Dad, Uncle John, and several NCOs from Dad’s old unit teaching him how to handle himself for years. He is an Eagle Scout and an MS 3 at MSU.

His bob was in his truck, back at his apartment. The gas mask and gear therein was on the other side of the crowd. He decided to take a wait and see attitude and was doing fine until some yahoo next to him started yelling at the cops. My son, I am sure in terms the guy understood from the get-go, told the guy to shut the #0&% up or get tossed off the balcony. The last thing they wanted was attention drawn to them.

My son noted that the violence was increasing. He said he heard the crowd chatting “Tear Gas Us”, which blew his mind. What were these idiots thinking with? One guy standing nearby stated that the cops didn’t have gas masks. My son told them that the bulge in front of their crotches was their gas mask and the guy challenged how he would know that. He ignored the guy.

As an aside, when I was instructing at the Training Academy my son would come along a lot of weekends and help out. He would help out with training scenarios and was able more than once to break though the riot line during early training of troops. We had my son teach one class to the troops too, the proper handling and folding of the flag. He has a lot more experience than most college students.

When the tear gas did finally start being used to break up the crowd my son moved them into the apartment and closed the doors and sealed what he could with duct tape. In an e-mail to me he stated, and I quote, “and tear gas...lets just say duct tape on the windows didn’t keep all of it out.”

To avoid trouble he stayed on the couch at the girl friend’s apartment. He didn’t want to walk home and take a chance of getting picked up by the police, attacked by the crowd, or be the target of opportunity to a mugger.

While he was likely not in any real danger he still went into condition red to make sure that he and the girl friend stayed out of danger. He took the steps needed to make sure that they didn’t have undo attention drawn their way and to mitigate the effects of the tear gas. When sheltering in place became the most prudent option that was the course taken.

It was not a SFTF or TEOTWAWKI event, but it did call for making some good calls and staying alert. As we have discussed in the past, survival situations come in all shapes and sizes, and some times the best gear to have is a calm clear head about you.



Anonymous said...

Ok, from my understanding, everyone has blown this WAY out of proportion, like East Lansing people always do. In the CNN article, they list multiple years of riot trouble, but, having been there myself during the alleged riots, the only trouble-makers were the East Lansing police. You keep talking about "danger" and "survival mode," and maybe it felt like that from the inside, but the crowd was loud, but not particularly dangerous, until the police started making threats. Even then, not so dangerous, just unruly. There's a big difference.

Anyways, as a very recent student of MSU, I'm yet again disappointed. Not in the students, either. Why does East Lansing, the city, feel like it can have all of the benefits of being a completely college town without accepting some of the consequences? The police at the University of North Carolina actually close down streets and set bonfires themselves when they beat Duke. Anarchy reigns supreme at Ohio State after sporting events, and the Columbus residents join in! If East Lansing ever wants to lose the "riot" reputation, they need to learn that young students like to let loose every once in a while. MSU has the party school reputation, but is no longer allowed to congregate in groups above a certain size. Until someone finds a way to have students and the other residents live in peace, you're going to keep having these so-called riots...

Staying Alive said...

Some people don't like to let it all hang out in public displays of activity. I am one of them. When people start acting stupid I want to get the fuck out of there. All kinds of things can happen and the next day it all seems like such a waste. And it is a waste.

Don't smack down someone who wants to stay away from the bullshit. Thre are simply a lot of people who aren't into it.

And Lansing probably made plenty of money off the arrests and citations. Fascists do that, you know.


KevH said...

What cracks me up is people who waste time defending a straight out riot--"the police brutality." come on use some common sense. You are there. You are drunk. You are acting like an asshole. You are breaking the law. You are destroying other peoples' property. You are hurting other people. Just be glad I don't come there with a gun. God, I hate riots.